Remarks by Tom Purves, Sales & Marketing Director, Rover Group
5 January 1999Remarks by Tom Purves, Sales & Marketing Director, Rover Group 1999 North American International Auto Show January 5, 1999 9:30 am
DETROIT, Jan. 5 -- The following are remarks by Tom Purves, Sales & Marketing Director of the Rover Group: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being with us. Let me just say that a January morning in Detroit is one of the few weather conditions that make January in England seem balmy. But no matter, this city has a warm heart and the atmosphere around here certainly fills us with excitement. Since this event last year, a tremendous amount has happened globally for Land Rover. 1998 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the brand and all around the world expeditions and special events have taken place to celebrate this historic milestone: * Two new Discoverys were driven around the world in the longest new vehicle roadtest in history. * A team of Land Rover employees drove Freelanders through 50 countries in 50 days raising over a quarter of a million dollars for UNICEF. * Land Rover Italy undertook a humanitarian mission to Bosnia delivering more than 300 tons of food, medicine and clothing to war refugees. Beside these special events, it was of course satisfying for me to see Land Rover achieve its highest ever sales and production figures in 1998 with some 170,000 vehicles built at Solihull including Defender, Freelander, Discovery and, of course, Range Rover. This represents an increase of 34 per cent over 1997. Total Land Rover sales were up more than 22 per cent with individual records set in many markets. * In Germany for instance, Land Rover was up 86 per cent * Italy 50 per cent * and for Europe as a whole, 59 per cent. Despite ever-increasing competition, Range Rover continues to be the most desired product of its type everywhere it is sold. In fact, during 1998, Range Rover outsold such luxury car brands as the S Class Mercedes in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. Here in the U.S., Range Rover had its highest sales ever. My sincere congratulations to Charlie Hughes and his team. The new Freelander was, of course, one of the reasons for our world-wide increase. Despite being on sale across Europe for less than twelve months, it has already become segment leader in the UK with a 37 per cent share while in Europe it is achieving around 18 per cent segment share -- and that is before we had full availability of the three-door variants. You will recall that at this show last year many of you asked why Freelander was not coming to the U.S. Clearly we do listen to your views and by mid-year, we were pleased to announce that we will introduce Freelander in the U.S. in late 2000, complete with a new 24 valve V6 engine and automatic transmission. As we revealed here last year, we are embarked on a course to completely revise our model line-up in this most important market between 1999 and 2003. Accordingly, today we have the official Detroit International Auto Show debut of the new Discovery Series II. Although we have retained the distinctive Discovery shape -- because our customers asked us not to change it too much -- the Series II is 85% new and incorporates a host of new technologies. It holds no less than 39 patents and is the world's first sport utility to have active suspension -- virtually eliminating body lean on-road. International press have driven it around the world producing some of the most positive reviews we have ever seen -- a direct result of our substantial investment in the Discovery's design, engineering and production facilities. American writer P.J. O'Rourke summed it up nicely when he said, "The Discovery Series IIs got us across India on local fuel, through ghastly conditions. Not once did they blink, bark or sputter. They are miraculous cars." Apparently the German government agrees as they have just ordered 300 new Discoverys to be used by the Border Patrol. Since BMW acquired Rover Group in 1994, more than $3.5 billion has been invested in the company. Much of that investment is paying off across the Land Rover product line. Just a few examples are: * Discovery and Defender both use the sophisticated, new Land Rover- designed Td5 five-cylinder turbo diesel engine. * The 99 model year Range Rover with four-wheel traction control is even better off-road, and with new side airbags offers greater passive safety. * In the latest J D Power APEAL survey, Discovery finished first in the compact SUV segment -- * and in the Sales Satisfaction Survey, Land Rover finished 4th overall out of 33 brands. This reflects the hard work Land Rover North America has pioneered in customer care at its Land Rover Centres -- a concept we are now extending to other markets around the world. It all adds up to a sound future for the Land Rover brand and for Discovery Series II. I know Charlie Hughes wants to give you more details about its U.S. launch. Before he does, let me draw your attention to the gold coloured vehicle on my left. It is one of two new Discoverys that were driven across four continents and 27 countries as part of the longest new vehicle roadtest in history. That drive exemplifies the Land Rover brand values of freedom, adventure, supremacy and plain old guts. That's what Land Rover is all about -- any challenge, any place, any time. We're going to show you a video of the drive, but first let me add my best wishes for the New Year and thank you for your attention.